The new 8-part mini series developed by Stephen King and J.J. Abrams finally has all episodes streaming on Hulu. Based off the novel by King, we go back in time to stop the assassination of JFK as well as find love, friendship, and danger.
James Franco plays the title character of Jake Epping. A recent divorced English teacher in the state of Maine given the opportunity to travel back in time by his old friend Al. With the time wormhole in Al’s diner, he learns that Al has been going back in time to the year 1960 in Texas, staying to prevent the assassination of JFK. Al tells Jake he has cancer and will die soon, and begs him to take the mission. Somehow, Al convinces him to do it and Jake goes to 1960.
The catch of this time travel story is that no matter how long Jake stays inside the past, it’s only two minutes in the present. If he leaves and comes back, it resets every time to 1960. Jake must invest three years in the past to stop the alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald; however as we come to find out the past “pushes” back throughout the entire season. By this I mean that the past knows that he is there trying to change history so dangerous and random things happen at any given time to stop Jake throughout his mission.
Although the main mission of the story is to stop the assassination of JFK, the real meat of Jake’s journey is him living a new life in the 60’s. It’s a fun transition when he first arrives in 1960 and the people around him. With the help of Al he is given all the credentials, money, and information he needs to pursue the conspiracy and Lee, but also to blend in with the times. As he does this, Jake seems to enjoy the much simpler times. Jake is not alone though as he encounters a friend named Bill after trying to save a family from a horrific murder to help a friend in the future. Bill learns that he is from the future and agrees to help save the President. This is a good friendship at the start and seems harmless, but it’s not until later that Bill can either be a liability or a danger to Jake’s mission.
There are many times where Jake feels like giving up and calling it quits. Let history run its course. However, if there is one thing from the past that Jake wants to hold on to, it’s a woman named Sadie. She is a librarian at the school he works at (in the past), and he is head over heels for her. This complicates things a bit as well because he chooses Sadie over important moments in history he is supposed to follow. The two are together for a long time and eventually she learns who Jake really is and wants to help him complete his mission.
Since this is a spoiler-free review, I won’t go into details of what happens in the end between Lee and Jake. There are lots of tense moments between the first and last episodes with a few twists and turns to keep things interesting. But Lee Harvey Oswald on screen was one of my favorite things about the show. I felt that his character was very well developed and showed what kind of man he was, and who he was trying to be. His claim that he is “going to change the world” goes very far, and you’ll see why if you finish the show. I’d say the show does tend to slope down throughout the middle episodes because it almost turns into a love story rather than his mission that he was first given. Although the story is about Jake attaching himself to the past life, it seems to fluctuate all over the place of what his intentions are.
11.22.63 has a great premise along with great actors to support it. J.J. Abrams craft is shown through the show and it brings a lot of fun watching it. There may be a few drawn out moments and episodes that doesn’t give much, but ultimately by the end I was very satisfied with the outcome and what Jake goes through. The idea itself is sort of crazy and makes me wonder what kind of life a person could live if he could time travel. I give 11.22.63 a 7.5/10.